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Tag Archives: postal service

How to send holiday cards from Italy

29 Nov

36674_whimsical_rustic_holiday_christmas_greeting_cardsYou would think there would be no need for a post about how to send holiday cards from Italy, but in the nearly 20 years I’ve been here, Poste Italiane still hasn’t made any significant strides in terms of efficiency. This summer, the parents of one of my daughter’s friends asked me if a postcard their daughter sent in July had arrived at our house. I told them no in August, and thought perhaps they had gotten the address wrong. Lo and behold, however, in October came the greeting from an Italian vacation locale: “Can’t wait to see you again in September!” And so it goes, with the Italian post.

That being the case, if you’re living in Italy and wondering about the various options for sending holiday greetings, I’ve tried a variety of different methods over the years with mixed results. Here are my thoughts on your options for sending yuletide joy across the miles this year.

Snail mail

Poste Italiane

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Your old-school option is the snail-mail route with the Italian system. It is, as previously stated here, here, here, here, and here, comically unreliable and monumentally incomprehensible. If you go this route, know that cards and letters sent internationally to the US cost 2 euros at last check. But just don’t ask for stamps.

Poste Vaticane

Logo_Poste_Vaticane

If you’re in Rome you have another snail-mail option, that of the Vatican mail service. I used it eons ago to send my wedding invitations. It’s generally seen as more reliable. I can attest to the fact that the invites all arrived safe and sound. And with stamps, to boot.

Real cards sent for you within US

Postable and Card Gnome

Postable_Logo_RGB_2016

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With the advent of more recent technologies since I first came to Italy in 2001, I’ve often opted for this route – companies that let you fill out your card online and then they mail the actual physical card for you from within the US. This way I avoid the hassle and risk of the crappy Italian postal system, but my recipients still get an actual card they can display on their mantel. I think it’s the best of both worlds. I like the designs on Postable (starts at $3.99 per card, plus 50 cents postage in US) better than Card Gnome (starts at $4.99 per card, postage included), but I’ve used both and both have been reliable. On Postable you can even upload your own photos and have them printed on the card – a definite plus.

Paperless Post

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Paperless Post is your go-to option for all-digital. They have a range of cool designs and many from well-known designers like kate spade new york, Rifle Paper Co., and Sugar Paper. What I like best about Paperless Post, however, is that they try to make the digital experience feel more like the real thing. For example, when your recipient opens their online card, the card actually contains a digital envelope, a digital stamp, and a sleek animation that opens the envelope and reveals the card. It’s light years ahead of those early e-card services that were full of gaudy flashing images, cheesy music, and rudimentary design.

Another plus of all-digital is that it’s instantaneous, so if you’re running late getting to the holiday card thing, you can still be on time even at the last minute. And, let’s be honest: the ease of importing your email contacts and mass mailing for the holidays is cheaper and quicker than the snail-mail route or the online+physical card route. Pricing for the digital cards works with Paperless Post’s coin system. You buy coins and then spend them on your cards, digital stamps, envelopes, linings, etc. Pricing starts at 10 coins for $5.00, but some cards are free. And you can upload photos for your design.

So, there you have it – a range of options for your holiday mailings from abroad. This year I am going to do a combination of all of them, most likely. Happy Holidays and happy mailing!

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Italian Postal Logic

10 Apr

Poor Poste Italiane. No one likes them.

Every time I write anything about the good ol’ PT, I inevitably get a random Italian commenter who hasn’t ever read my blog before (and thus has no idea how adoring I truly am of my adopted country), but somehow landed on that one post where I get all complainy, and tries to defend the PT in the comments by suggesting in some creative and colorful form that if I don’t like it I can go back to my own damn country.

Ok, maybe not every time. But lots of times, anyways.

Maybe it was calling this post “Italian Postal Service I Hate You With All My Heart” that made some readers think I’m bitter and cynical. A bit over the top? I dunno. Perhaps.

Maybe it was the one called No stamps, this is the post office.

Maybe people just don’t appreciate quality sarcasm anymore. We’ve become so jaded, haven’t we? It’s too bad all our days can’t be filled with delightful post office banter like this.

Well, as you might already know, the Italian postal service (and here I use the term “service” very loosely) is a never-ending font of things to both ridicule and belittle.

And yet, today I don’t have any complaints to add, but rather a quiz (or as they say here in Italy, “queets”) question for you.

I need your help, as a matter of fact, because no matter how I try to wrap my brain around this one, it just keeps getting tied up in knots.

Please observe Exhibit A:

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Besides the fact that this is an exceedingly rare moment in that there seems to be NO ONE in the post office (I promise you there were 10 people just a couple minutes later), have a look at “What’s Wrong in This Picture?”

Well, frankly, I hadn’t noticed it. But as I was waiting in line, the one line that was formed because the number machine was broken, I overheard a woman loudly say to an elderly lady approaching the counter: “You see?! There was a reason why they turned the chairs around!”

At which point, obviously, I look at the row of chairs and discover, in fact, that they are all facing with their backs to the “service” windows, when usually they are facing the windows. The usual chair configuration does actually make sense, really, when you take into consideration that if you have your back to the NUMERICAL DISPLAY you won’t be very likely to see YOUR NUMBER when it’s called. So, you know, number machine broken, maybe chairs must be turned around? Unless, well, ok, perhaps it could stay that way even when the number machine works, maybe if you were to hold up a compact mirror over your shoulder, and/or you are a single mom of three children under age ten like I am, at which point you would certainly have at least two, if not more, eyes in the back of your head like I do.

Anyways, herefore cometh O Wise Explanation to aforementioned conundrum, according to postal patron number one. However, before the big reveal, I’d like you to take a moment and try to guess why, using your own common sense and logic, according to postal patron number one (who I assumed received this pearl of wisdom directly from the postal clerk), the postal people decided it was a good idea to turn all those chairs around.

You got it? You got your guess ready? OK. So here’s what the woman said:

“You see, since there aren’t any numbers because the number machine is broken, and since we all have to form one line starting over there, well, the chairs are turned around so that way, if the line gets long, people can sit down in these chairs, like so.”

The old woman nodded, as if that somehow made perfect sense to her.

Perfect sense.

In my mind, a comment like that deserves only one thing, and that one thing is known in my world as the hashtag #WTF.

But, this is not my world, you see. Oh no, make no mistake about it: this is the Italian postal “service’s” world. I only live in it, occasionally stand in it for long periods of time, and most certainly never sit in it with my back to the service windows, even if they do make the effort to helpfully position the chairs in a way in which I could comfortably do so.

But why stop there, I ask myself. No, dear reader, bonus: I’d also like to let you know, that if you so desire, you can get dental insurance through the post office. Will you just look at how happy that toothpaste smiley-face man is about this proposition?

teeth

Dental Postalprotection: Smiling has never been so simple. (I want to kiss the copywriter who came up with that one, really, I do.)

But wait! There’s more!

There’s an entire CATALOG of randomness that you can buy through your post office. It’s even seasonal. This one is Spring 2014. That means there are four a year, people! YAY! Look how happy the family is, sitting as they are in front of a soccer match! You can even buy a flag! Weee!

catalog

Stamps? Pshaw, you silly! But a “Dual Motor Relax Recliner”? Oh now hellll yes. Now that we have, at the low, low price of just €449,90. (Postal geniuses, you’re not fooling anyone by taking 10 cents off. We’re totally onto you and your reclining chair scheming.)

relax

That is, unless you prefer the collar massager for 10 cents short of €55.

We’ll even make it super easy for you with a loan on one of our pre-paid debit cards: “The loan that recharges your desire for shopping.” Yes. Because we’re the post office. That’s what we do, you see.

loan

You know what though? Shit. I’m usually not one of those “Americans Do It Better” kind of girls, but in this particular instance, I just have to get on out there and say it loud, say it proud: when it comes to useless products, AIN’T NOBODY like us here Americans.

Don’t believe it? Just try me:


(If I had been drinking milk I am fairly certain it would have come out of my nostrils from laughter at 2:15. Nice perm, BTW.)

Ok, fine. I hear you though. You’re saying, “Oh Shelley, PT is such an easy target. Move on already.” Which makes me think of an Italian phrase that I simply adore. It goes like this: “E’ come sparare sulla Croce Rossa.” We Americans say something like, “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” (naturally, of course, because all Americans carry at least one gun on their person at ALL TIMES), but the Italians say, “It’s like shooting at the Red Cross.” God I love that phrase. [And, by the way and just so you know, Mythbusters confirmed that shooting fish in a barrel is, in fact, easy to do.]

And before you dismiss my humble blog as pulp fodder for the ignorant masses, I’ll have you know that this dude at Yahoo questions wanted to know “Why do they say it’s like shooting at the Red Cross?” and some benevolent soul took the time to respond that the GENEVA CONVENTION prevents shooting at health workers in war zones, so it’s like attacking someone who’s defenseless and can’t fight back. Another helpful know-it-all says that it was common to bomb Red Cross encampments in war zones in all the wars post-1864 (when the Red Cross was founded). In any case, if you need a real-life, in-context textual/visual demonstration of this expression, I direct you here. I will not, can not, put a picture of Britney Spears’s buttocks on my blog. Not gan do it, not at this juncture, wun’t be prudent…

Today I had to go to the post office to pay a bill (naturally) so I decided it would also be a good occasion to mail a letter I needed to mail. A real, honest-to-God, thank you card, from a box of US stationery I had sent over from Papyrus via my ex-husband’s luggage with a real, honest-to-God stamp on it. I kid you not when I tell you that I went to the tobacconist before the post office, so I could purchase a real stamp. As I hand over the card, I am careful to bring to the clerk’s attention: “It already has a stamp on it.”

The guy behind the counter takes my letter, stares at it, turns it over a few times in his hands, marveling. (He was marveling, I swear to you, it was unmistakable.)

I was like: “What? It’s a letter.”

And he goes: “That’s a beautiful thing.”

Indeed, my friend, it is. Indeed it is.